MILWAUKEE -- The Bradley Center was a most happy madhouse. And then it was just a sadhouse.
In front of charged sellout crowd, the Bucks and Hawks slopped back and forth amid two first quarter Milwaukee shot clock violations and a few Atlanta airballs. But the home team carried a three point lead to halftime despite scoring 34 points in 24 minutes.
Then the Bucks came out of the halftime locker room with their right shoes on their left feet, their left shoes on their wrong feet, their shoelaces untied, and gum stuck on their soles and fingers. So it seemed. For seven minutes and fifty-seven seconds, they didn't score, as Atlanta ran off 19 straight to turn a four-point deficit into an insurmountable 15-point advantage. Because in a game like this, 15 was more like 25.
Talk about a buzzkill? This was buzzsuicide.
The Bucks tossed jumpers in the general vicinity of the hoop, some were open, some were contested, but none went in. It's not just that the shots didn't go in -- the team just didn't attack. If this was the last we see of this particular version of the Bucks in Milwaukee, it represented little of what we came to know and appreciate. They saved their worst for last.
Milwaukee made a fourth quarter run to inject life back into the BC which they had previously sucked out, skimming 10 points off the deficit to draw within 69-62, but Josh Smith (who listened to a "Josh Smith Sucks!" chant as the game wound down), blocked Jerry Stackhouse's reverse layup attempt and the Bucks just didn't have another push in them with the clock clicking toward a trip to Atlanta for Game 7.
There are no moral victories in the playoffs, but this sure was a demoralizing loss.
Not a good way to start the weekend in Milwaukee. Now it's about how they finish the weekend in Atlanta.
Carlos Delfino. Call him Carlitos, Lancha, Del3no, 'Los, Cabezón -- call him the only guy to really show up for the Bucks tonight. Delfino scored the team's first four points, and unfortunately that foreshadowed an evening in which he was on and pretty much everyone else was way off. He continued to drain threes, making 4-9 while his teammates made 3-17 combined from deep.
Just 8-20 from the field at the end of the night, but he was the team's best offensive and defensive player.
Kurt Thomas. Following an effective but scoreless Game 5, he chipped in a series-high 11 points, though he couldn't keep Al Horford off the boards, no one could. Regardless, Thomas remains inherently likeable, especially on nights when Dan Gadzuric did whatever he did on the court, which seemed to be not-so-hesistantly bricking jumpers and little else.
Jerry Stackhouse. For the brief, late Stack Attack. Finding a Third Buck was not easy.
0. The Hawks got 24 points off the bench from Jamal Crawford, and that was it from Atlanta's reserves. Zaza Pachulia, Maurice Evans, and Mario West didn't score, as the Hawks only needed six scorers to win. And Marvin Williams only scored two points. The Bucks did not require that the Hawks score very many points to win.
84. The Bucks only needed 84 points to win this game, a number they had reached in 10 straight games. The last time they didn't reach 84 was in the team's first game after losing Bogut, a 79-point playoff-clinching win over the Bulls in Chicago. This playoff-crushing loss was the closest thing yet to an antithesis of that night.
31.3 % Atlanta shot just 10-32 (.313) for 20 points in the paint, but the Bucks were barely better, making 12-27 (.444) in the paint for 24 points. Holding this Hawks team to a percentage like that at home and still losing by double digits is the height of absurdity.
Game 7. Sunday, 12 noon, ABC.
No one thought the Bucks would make it this far. All of the experts over at ESPN and Yahoo picked the Hawks to win in four, five, or six games. And I did too. They disappointed tonight, but they surprised overall. It's almost too soon to try to have perspective since this was such a down, down day. But they are down, not out.
Stack's start and finish. Jerry Stackhouse sang a stirring rendition of the National Anthem before the game. This was a perfect choice to further amp up an already giddy crowd. He also sang the anthem a few years back in Dallas. Apparently he was 3-0 in games after singing the anthem.
Then he didn't do much on the court again until late in the fourth quarter, when he nailed a corner three pointer to bring the Bucks to within ten points at 69-59. Kurt Thomas was simultaneously fouled and made the free throw, in essence a four-point play, and the deficit was in single digits for the first time since it was 44-36. On the following offensive possession, Stackhouse posted up Mike Bibby, got to the line, and made both free throws to draw with 69-62. Stack got stuffed on a reverse layup attempt with a chance to cut the lead to five, but at least the Bucks gave the crowd something to cheer about late in the dreary night.
They feel like the ball is back in their court, but they thought the ball was back in their court in Game 5. You have to embrace it, you have to love it. There was nothing promised to ever get back into a Game 7. I've been in this situation before. There isn't anything sweeter than that -- to go in and win a Game 7 in another's team's building.
Perfection at stripe. The Bucks made 12-12 free throws, but those mere 12 attempts were a reflection of their offensive (really, offensive) passivity and willingness to settle for jumpshots.
Back to Atlanta. This was at home, and this was Atlanta not even close to at their best. This was the one to win.
Third quarter. Just as the guys at Peachtree Hoops recommended, the Hawks tried a zone defense in the third quarter, and the Bucks sure couldn't shoot over it, somehow managing to outdo Atlanta's fourth quarter collapse in Game 5.
A truly epic, infamous, horrific display of ineptitude. It took a lot to quiet the crowd tonight, but the Bucks managed to do it.
We were concerned, as the staff, at halftime, just because when you're around each other, you see looks on faces and see what's going on in the game, and guys weren't comfortable out there. They weren't relaxed and comfortable and just playing basketball and communicating with each other like we do when we're good. We just had some blank stares going on out there.
Backcourt blues. Heroes of the series prior to tonight, Brandon Jennings and John Salmons were pretty awful this evening, combining to shoot 6-28 (.214), mostly from the perimeter. Brandon clanked all sorts of wide open looks from outside but just kept on shooting his way to a 1-9 night from beyond the arc. He finally started to go the basket late in the game, but it was a touch late for that. Meanwhile, Salmons missed shots he usually makes and had three of his shots blocked for the second straight game after not getting blocked once in the previous two games.
Didn't help that Luke Ridnour didn't take care of the ball and didn't do much off the bench.
No offense to Kurt Thomas and Luc Mbah a Moute, but they usually offer pretty much no offense; the scorers are in the backcourt, and when they miss like this, there is no hope.